The Unearthly (The Unearthly Series), p.1Laura Thalassa
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I WAS IN a burning house.
The oppressive heat evaporated the tears that ran down my cheeks, but my tiny hand still tried to swipe them away.
It was the sight of my small hand that made me lucid.
Not this again. Knowing it was a dream didn’t stop the events from unfolding as they always had.
Smoke choked my lungs and obscured my vision. Which room was I in? I never could remember, no matter how many times the events played out.
Out of the smoke came a figure.
“Dad!” I yelled, my voice sweet and high-pitched.
He scooped me up as the wooden beams above us shuddered, and he led us through the smoky corridors. I watched from over my father’s shoulder as fire ate up my house.
I blinked and a man stood amidst the flames.
My skin chilled despite the heat. Not him.
I gripped the expensive cloth of my father’s suit and twisted it beneath my fingers.
The fire stung my eyes and I blinked. When I opened them again, the man was gone.
At some point my father stopped. The fire was not so bad here.
Another figure appeared out of the haze. Cecilia. I was passed over to her, out of my dad’s arms.
“Dad?” I was scared again.
I hated this part.
He kissed me on the top of my head. “I love you angel.” He turned away, disappearing into the smoke.
“Don’t leave me!” I cried. But he was gone.
Cecilia led us through the house. I recognized my room along the way; my favorite teddy bear was lying on the floor, burning up before my eyes.
Cecilia carried me to our pantry. Barely glancing at the dried goods, she unlatched a trap door set into the floor. She dropped me down into the musty space before climbing down herself. I glanced back up through the trap door, wondering where my dad was.
She took my hand and led me through the darkness.
“Reek! Reek! Reek!”
My eyes snapped open, and I sat up, startled. My heart was racing, and I shivered from the cold sweat covering my body. It took me a moment to realize it was my alarm clock that had shaken me from the dream.
I hit the snooze button and flipped over, rearranging myself to go back to bed. I was a good sleeper; even an old memory-turned-nightmare couldn’t frighten me into wakefulness.
There was a knocking on my door. “Gabrielle, wake up!”
“No,” I moaned.
“Time to get up,” my mother said too cheerfully. “You’re going to miss your flight if you don’t get up!”
She walked into my room to assess the situation.
“But I just went to bed,” I mumbled.
“That’s what happens when you save packing until the night before your flight.”
My eyes sprang open. Junior year. I had almost forgotten. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the clothes I had set aside.
“Breakfast is ready downstairs.” With that, my mother turned and left.
I shoved myself into a black shirt, jeans, and a pair of boots. I popped into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror.
This was it. This was the last day I would officially live here. My nervous excitement had my adrenaline going. A year ago I’d never heard of Peel Academy, and now I was on my way to attend the prestigious boarding school.
I watched my mother’s car pull away from the curbside, disappearing into the crowded airport traffic, and then I walked towards the airline check-in.
I fiddled with my luggage straps as I waited. Would I fit in? I desperately wanted to; it was part of the reason I’d accepted the offer of admission. God knew I hadn’t fit in at my last school, or really any place for that matter. I clung to the opportunity to change that.
But there was a more important reason, one that I hadn’t voiced to my adoptive mother. It wasn’t that the school was located on the British Isles, and it wasn’t that the school opened doors—though it did. It was a single line printed on the admission letter.
Considering your status as a legacy, Peel Academy warmly welcomes you into its esteemed halls.
Legacy. Meaning one or both of my biological parents might have attended Peel Academy in the past. This was my chance to find out who they were, and I was not going to turn it down.
I checked in and headed towards the security checkpoint. It was as I walked by the large panoramic windows that I felt my skin prickle and the back of my neck grow warm. Someone was watching me.
I scanned the bustling street on the other side of the glass, almost missing him. Nearly hidden by the shadow of the parking garage, a figure leaned against the wall.
Oh please, not him. Not now.
He wore a suit and a hat. For one brief moment we locked eyes. He tipped his hat. The seemingly innocent gesture sent a chill through me. I stood there in the airport and stared at the man, unable to look away. A Hertz rental bus finally broke the spell, its huge girth hiding him from view. I waited for the bus to pass. But once it did, the man had vanished.
I hadn’t seen him in a while; I thought he was gone. But I should have known. The man in a suit was always there, since my earliest memories. Never changing, never aging, and always filling me with dread. I thought I’d be able to escape him by leaving, but maybe I was wrong.
Eighteen hours, one layover, two coffees, and three bland meals later I arrived at Heathrow Airport. I could feel my eyelids drooping from lack of sleep, and my mouth felt gummy.
I still couldn’t believe this was real. I got to live on my own and attend a private boarding school. The autonomy and adventure of it overshadowed the lingering sadness over leaving home.
I glanced around for my ride. I was supposed to meet Professor Blackmore at the baggage claim. As my gaze grazed over the various homemade signs, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I turned and faced an older gentleman wearing a tweed coat, brown pants, and a red bowtie. A bowtie! All he needed was a monocle and a pipe to complete the look.
“Nice to meet you Gabrielle,” he said, extending his hand. I shook it, relieved that I didn’t have to scour the congested waiting area for my ride. “You were the last person we were waiting for. Why don’t you grab your bags from the baggage claim, and then I’ll go over our plans for the day.”
Once I had collected my luggage, I joined the teens grouped together.
“Now that everyone on my list is here, welcome to the British Isles. As many of you probably know, we still have another leg of the journey ahead of us. I have a ticket for each of you—don’t lose it—it’s for our flight to the Isle of Man.”
Shocked, I looked around me. No one had mentioned another flight. And where was the Isle of Man for that matter? The address on the school’s website indicated that Peel Acad
Around me, students were smiling and happily whispering to one another. They definitely did not look surprised.
“Um, excuse me.” I cleared my throat and stepped forward. “I didn’t know we had another flight.”
“Miss Fiori, it is customary for us to not publicly disclose the school’s actual location before arrival,” Professor Blackmore said.
“But what about the address on the school’s website?”
Why the secrecy? I didn’t say it out loud, but the shadowy way the school conducted business had bothered me. Not enough to dissuade me from enrolling, but enough to trouble me. Just accessing the website practically required fingerprinting.
Some of the other students glanced at me. Their looks clearly said I was an idiot.
“That address belongs to our London offices, where most of the school’s official business and paperwork is processed.” He faced the rest of the group, dismissing me. “Now, everyone, make sure you grab your boarding pass and follow me.”
Had I missed a memo? No one else appeared to find this situation strange. And Professor Blackmore’s answer only added to my growing unease. Reluctantly I took my boarding pass. My mother was going to freak when she found out. Oh well.
As we walked down the terminal, a student fell into step beside me. “I noticed earlier you sounded like you were American.”
I glanced over at the girl next to me. She was curvy and had long golden hair that perfectly matched the color of her eyes.
“Yeah, I’m California grown,” I replied. I noticed she also had an American accent. “You from the U.S.?”
She nodded. “I’ve bounced around a bit, but I’ll always consider Boston home. I’m Leanne by the way.”
“Gabrielle.” Because she seemed willing to talk, I decided to ask, “Were we sent something that I didn’t get? Because this is the first time I’ve even heard of the Isle of Man, and I seem to be the only one surprised by this.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. Most of the students are legacies, so we already know the school’s location. It’s just not public knowledge.”
I decided not to mention that I too was a legacy—there’d be too much backstory to cover.
“So you had a relative go here?” I asked.
“Yeah. My grandmother, and her grandmother before that.”
“Dang.” I was impressed. Some legacy.
I thought back to the dream I had so many hours ago. The memory-turned-nightmare was the last I had of my biological family. My mother back in California had adopted me as a little girl. Now I finally had the chance to find out more about my biological parents.
I couldn’t wait.
The flight took a little over an hour, during which I was able to get my hands on a map. The good news was that I was able to locate the Isle of Man. The bad news was that the map only depicted a meager dot between Ireland and Great Britain.
Fat lot of help that did me.
Once we landed, we were whisked to a car. We drove through a quaint town before the land opened up into rolling green hills sectioned off by squat stone walls.
Leanne pointed to little grassy lumps sprinkled across the landscape. “Those are ancient burial mounds; they’ve been around since the Bronze Age.”
I tried to muster some form of appreciation, but they were a bit underwhelming to look at.
“And,” she continued, unaware of my lack of interest, “our school is a castle.”
“What?” Now that got my attention. The only images I’d seen of Peel had been either close ups, obscuring the building’s façade, or indoor photos depicting the extravagant library and study halls.
“Yep. I didn’t want to say anything earlier because it’s technically a surprise, but everyone else already knows that Peel Academy is actually Peel Castle.”
This was news to me. I got to attend class in a castle? The school’s website definitely didn’t mention that.
The car rounded a bend, and the castle came into view. It was nestled at land’s edge, perched atop coastal cliffs. Beyond it stretched the ocean. I sucked in a breath. Wow, that was where I got to go to school.
As we got closer, I began to notice some alarming details. There were no glass panes in the windows, part of the main building was crumbling, and one building didn’t have a roof. What was going on?
The car passed through the gates, and we were on the school grounds.
I blinked in confusion. Stretching out to my right was a huge, sprawling castle. The windows were fitted with small, diamond panes and the roofs were immaculate. I blinked a few times. I must’ve imagined it, but I could’ve sworn …
“Okay boys and girls, these buildings are the dormitories.” Professor Blackmore pointed to our left. The car pulled up to a line of slightly more modern buildings that faced the castle grounds. “The men’s dormitories are those just behind us, and the women’s are these right in front of us.
Gentlemen, I am the house father, and ladies your house mother is Professor Nightingale. We live on the first floors of each respective dorm, and we are here to make sure you follow the rules and stay safe. Do not hesitate to come to us with any questions you may have. I have your room assignments and keys for the year. Don’t lose them.”
I collected my key and room assignment and hauled my bags out from the car. I first admired the castle before focusing on the dormitory buildings. I loved this place already.
I dragged my luggage past a reception desk where a security guard—a.k.a. a bored-looking college student—sat reading a magazine. When she saw me, she put the magazine down. “New student?” I nodded. “What’s your name and room assignment?”
I looked down at my sheet of paper. “Gabrielle Fiori. Room 305.”
She marked something off on a sheet next to me. “Nice to meet you Miss Fiori. Once you get your student ID, make sure to check in and out of here when you come and go. Your room’s going to be on the third floor. Welcome to Peel.”
I was sweating by the time I managed to drag my luggage up the three flights and find my room. Key in hand, I unlocked the door.
My dorm consisted of two twin beds, two desks, two armoires, and two closets all crammed into a tiny room. Despite the size, I couldn’t complain, the view of the castle and the coast was that amazing.
I heard the door bang open behind me. Leanne stumbled in, dwarfed under all her baggage. “Stupid freaking luggage. Why did I think I could take all this with me?”
“We’re roommates?” Thank goodness. I didn’t know Leanne that well, but I liked her company and she seemed to like mine.
She looked up, her bags hopelessly twisted about her. “Thank all that is holy that you are my roommate. I was having nightmares that I’d have to live with Doris.”
“Who’s Doris?” I asked quizzically.
“The spawn of Satan,” she said. “Unfortunately, you’ll meet her soon enough. She’s attending Peel as well.”
Before I could respond, I heard a shriek from the hallway. A handsome guy with ice blond hair darted through our open door and tackle-hugged Leanne.
“It’s so good to see you,” he said, breaking away.
“How did you get in here?” she asked.
“I have my ways.” He shrugged. “Oh,” he said, noticing me for the first time. “Who is this beautiful creature?” he asked, walking forward. He eyed me up and down.
I blushed before I could help it.
“Stop freaking out my roommate,” Leanne said. “Gabrielle, this is Oliver, my socially awkward friend.”
“What’s that phrase you Americans have?” Oliver snapped his fingers as it came to him. “Ah, I believe that’s the pot calling the kettle black.”
“So, ladies,” Oliver said, “what are you wearing tonight for Mystique?”
Oliver walked over to one of the beds and made himself comfortable.
“What’s Mystique?” I asked.
Oliver balked. “
I shook my head.
Leanne explained. “Mystique is a famous club on the island, and they host a party at the beginning of every school year to welcome the students.”
“Let me tell you,” Oliver said, “it’s an event you don’t want to miss.”
Okay, a party. That could be fun. Instead my mind conjured up high school videos shown during Drug Free Week, filled with drunk high school students OD’ing on drugs.
“And,” Leanne said, “let’s not forget that Andre de Leon will be there.”
“Who’s Andre de Leon?” I was two steps behind everyone else. I swear I must have missed an email.
“She did not just say that,” Oliver said.
Leanne shook her head. “Girl, you have a lot to catch up on.”
“Apparently,” I muttered.
“Andre de Leon is Europe’s all-time bad boy,” Leanne said. “He dates celebrities—and goes through them like potato chips—runs semi-legal establishments, and often gets in trouble with the law.”
“You forgot the sexploits and the blood-drinking,” Oliver said.
Blood drinking? What a disgusting fetish to have.
“I thought that fell under ‘dating celebrities’?” Leanne said.
“Sure, whatever. Point is,” Oliver said, facing me, “he’s naughty and smoking hot, and he’s going to be there tonight.”
I smiled and tried to act excited about this Andre de Leon and tonight’s festivities in spite of my stomach roiling. Call it intuition, but I had a bad feeling about the club.
Regardless, I would not sabotage my chances at friendship within the first day just because I didn’t want to go.
A little dancing never hurt anyone.
THAT EVENING, INSTEAD of walking out of the building, Leanne and Oliver led me down to the dorm’s basement.
“Guys, I thought we were going to the party,” I said.
“What do you think we’re doing?” Oliver said. “Checking the plumbing?”
Leanne snickered. “You’ll see.” She pulled out her cell and turned on the phone’s flashlight.
Spare mattresses leaned against a wall of the basement, and a few boxes sat to each side of the walkway. Directly above us was Professor Nightingale’s room. I could hear her even footfalls as she moved back and forth across the room, pacing.
The Unearthly (The Unearthly Series) by Laura Thalassa / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes